Finland was toppled from the peak of a digitalisation index compiled by the Transport and Communications Ministry, the innovation funding agency Tekes, the technology industry lobby group Teknologiateollisuus and the e-commerce association Verkkoteollisuus.
Like in a previous survey in 2016, Nordic countries commanded the top of the table. This year, Denmark was ranked third after Norway and Finland, while Sweden was fourth. The Netherlands and the United States were fifth and sixth respectively.
The digitalisation barometer ranks 22 developed countries in terms of adoption and usage of digital technologies and looks at 36 factors. The 2017 theme focused especially on the uptake and deployment of artificial intelligence or AI. The barometer found that a large segment of Europe appears to be lagging behind in terms of AI development.
The ranking considered digitalisation at three levels: the prerequisites for digitalisation, the degree of usage and its impact. These areas were in turn assessed via three sectors: the corporate, civic and public sector.
Finland has long been a consistent achiever in terms of digitalisation; Finland placed third in requirements and usage of digitalisation, while its score for the impact of digitalisation put it in second place.
However there was more variation in how different sectors embraced digitalisation. Ranked based on corporate use of digitalisation, Finland was first, while in civic participation it was ranked fourth and second for public sector involvement.
AI applications under the microscope
In addition to the country comparison, the barometer also used a corporate survey to determine the degree to which companies use artificial intelligence. AI essentially refers to systems that mimic human’s cognitive abilities, such as the ability to learn and solve problems, among others.
According to the survey, the majority of Europe has "missed the artificial intelligence train". In Finland's case, the country was described as having a "sharp but narrow leading edge" in AI.
It emerged that Finland has 350 AI firms and 400 AI researchers, while some 30 companies had artificial intelligence teams with at least 10 persons. Aalto University led the field in academic institutions.
The report also found that "there is significant potential in artificial intelligence, although present-day hype around the technology is exaggerated". It also expressed concerns about the rise of AI:
"Before the proliferation of artificial intelligence applications, it would be wise to consider which use cases are critical for human lives, and should be placed under public scrutiny."